Thank you everyone! We’re home!!!
We started this journey about 10 months ago (August 28, 2014), flying into Houston, TX in an air ambulance, just the two of us, unsure of what to expect, unsure of what was to come. We were just very thankful that Houston Methodist gave us a chance to be evaluated in their lung transplant program.
What was supposed to be a four day evaluation turned into a ten day evaluation. Towards the end of the evaluation, we were still left with more questions than answers. The infectious disease team wanted to treat Anya for an acute infection for a minimum of 6-18 months before even considering her for transplant. I’ll never forget the day the infectious disease doctor asked us if we were planning to go home to treat the infection. We looked at each other, dumbfounded, because we both knew that going home without new lungs was not an option.
A few days later, during a routine bronchoscopy for the evaluation, they punctured Anya’s lung. Anya spent three weeks in the ICU, just trying to recover from that unfortunate incident. They put her on a ventilator, sedated her for a few days, and we waited for everything to stabilize. I’ll never forget that morning the doctor called me and asked me for permission to intubate and put her on a ventilator.
It was a tough three weeks, but ultimately, Anya was able to overcome that obstacle and move over to Kindred Hospital, a long term acute care facility. Still unsure whether or not they would list her, Anya worked every day trying to maintain her strength.
For three long months, we watched as Anya walked around the halls of Kindred Hospital, with a ventilator and feeding tube in tow, struggling to breathe with each step. If you thought running a marathon was hard, try doing one every day for three months.
On November 20, 2014, the transplant team finally decided to list her. Exactly 40 days later, on December 30, 2014, Anya got “The Call”. It was an incredible moment as her sister’s family flew into Houston just a few hours prior to spend New Year’s Eve with her. We were all sitting there in her room at Kindred and received a call from the transplant center saying that they had lungs for her. About eight hours later, she was in the operating room receiving her new lungs.
After spending 31 days in the ICU and five days in the step-down unit, Anya was released to go home to our apartment in Houston on February 5, 2015. And last Wednesday, the transplant team finally gave us the okay to go home-home, back to Chantilly, VA.
We could not have made this journey without the support of each and everyone who reached out to us in one way or another. Thank you to everyone who took time out of their day to send messages, care packages, donations, presents, food, cards, and prayers. Some of the things I remember off the top of my head…the elementary school get-well cards with hand written notes from the students, the superwoman socks (which Anya proudly displayed on her first Kindred walk), the many puzzles, books (both for reading and activity), stay strong anya bracelets and t-shirts, all of the cards of encouragement, the big purple ribbon from my soccer teams, the mini pillow with the butterfly, the “Bats in the Belfry” sent as our Halloween decorations, the Christmas video sent from my family in northern Virginia, the Stay Strong Anya videos and pictures, all of the gift cards, the t-shirts, the blankets, the home cooked meals, the beautiful pieces of crystal, and of course, all of the generous donations. Each and every gift put a smile on Anya’s face and they really helped us keep on pushing along, more than any of you will ever know.
Thank you to all of those who took the time to visit Anya in Houston: PJ & her husband, Chad, Christina, Bonnie, Johnny, Rosemary, Dale, Sue, Rick, Darlene, Quentin, Sharon, Sarah, Heather, & DJ. You didn’t have to do it, but you all took the time to stop by. The visits meant a lot.
Special thank you my parents and my sister who watched our crazy dogs for nearly two months, without hesitation, and drove non-stop nearly 1,400 miles to bring them and my car to us. If there’s one thing that I can always count on, it’s my family…including all of my great cousins. There’s not much more that I can ask for.
Special thank you to Colette Bukowski who took it upon herself to setup the Gofundme account, which raised over $20,000 to help with medical bills. She also started the Stay Strong Anya Facebook page and visited Anya three times in and out of the hospital. It’s refreshing to see someone do all of this out of the kindness of her own heart. We’ll never be able to repay her for everything that she has done for us. We’re so honored to call her our friend.
Special thank you to Becky, Lauren, Luke, and Stephen. Anya and I were both sad leaving Houston, because we felt like we left our best friends behind. When we first arrived in Houston, we were both very scared and very lost in the big city. Becky and Lauren reached out to us immediately. I just remember that they brought us food and hung out with us for 2-3 hours that first day, and we just talked. It really helped us take our minds off of everything hospital related. For those ten evaluation days, they took turns out of their busy work schedules and made sure that we were never alone. They were there every single step of the way…Dunn 4, ICU, Kindred, ICU, post transplant. When we got The Call, Becky drove an hour at midnight on a Tuesday to see Anya before they whisked her away into the operating room. Sometimes unusual circumstances bring people into your lives…we’re so very lucky that they came into ours. They are indeed very special people and now a part of our family. We cannot thank them enough for all that they have done for us and will never be able to repay their love and kindness.
And I don’t think “Thank You” is appropriate for Anya’s family, as we were all in this together. I’ll just say this… Anya’s dad, Larry, and Anya’s mom, Marion, took turns spending a month or two at a time staying with Anya in the ICU and Kindred and at the apartment, post transplant. Anya’s step-dad, Roger, drove from Ohio to Houston and back, eight times. Anya’s sister — Jocelyn, brother-in-law — Patrick, niece — Parker, and nephew — Harrison came at the most opportune time, when we got The Call. I can’t imagine how hard it was to be without their daughter, sister, sister-in-law and aunt over a thousand miles away, but they all managed to be here in one way or another throughout this entire journey. Not a single day passed where one of them wasn’t there or didn’t call/text her….not even to this day. Talking about unconditional love, Anya’s family is the definition of it.
And lastly, I wanted to thank the good doctors and lung transplant team over at Houston Methodist for giving Anya a chance — lead by Dr. Kaleekal and followed by Dr. Sinha, Dr. Mankidy, Dr. Yousef, Dr. Joythula, Dr. Grimes, Dr. Yui, and Dr. Shakespeare. Thank you to the great team at Kindred Hospital lead by Dr. Nguyen, who stayed with us until every single one of our questions were answered, and we had a lot of questions. Thank you to our great transplant coordinators, Marie and Lisa, who have always gone above and beyond to communicate with us. A special thank you to some special folks at Methodist, including: RN’s Laura and Sandra; RT’s Jeff, Dale, and Raymond, and all of the respiratory therapists in the ICU and Dunn 4; and PT Chris, the ICU physical therapist. And thank you to all of the nurses at Kindred, including Liz, Jeremy, Rose, and Tiffany (and many more). A special thank you to some special RT’s at Kindred, including: Daniel, Yemi, Rosemary, and Latief and Roxanne (who spent many nights trying to calm Anya down during her panic attacks). Thanks to Bob Stein, the CEO of Kindred Hospital in Houston, for being available to answer our questions and concerns. Much love and thanks to Tiffany, the nurse practitioner at Kindred, who never had a doubt about getting Anya a new set of lungs and to Rick and Kim, the physical therapists at Kindred who always kept a positive attitude and pushed Anya just enough every single day to help her get to transplant. Lastly, I’d like to thank my good buddy, Randy, from Kindred, whose wife had a transplant last September, for listening and sharing in my daily worries and struggles. I hope Missy gets out soon.
Last, but not least, Anya’s donor. Without organ donation, Anya would not be here, nor would the thousands of others who have received the gift of life. As of today, there are 123,012 people in need of a life saving organ transplant. There are not enough donors to meet the demand. Signing up is simple.
See everyone soon.
Anya and Mike